Friday, August 7, 2009


Dear readers,

Thanks for taking the time to read thoughts and ideas that I've scribbled down with my keyboard. This would be my last post on this site. But i'm not saying goodbye to blogging. I'm moving to a site that someone who was kind enough to help me out. I think they call it blog hosting. I'm not a tech person just a simple guy with words and sentences to spare and share. Here is the new site of Deconstructing The Monkey. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

OT (made simple): Something about Narrative 1

The bulk of the OT is made up of narratives or in story form (there are alot of sticky issues but lets not go there for the moment haha). But not that it has anything to do with fairy tales for that matter. A working definition for understanding OT narrative would be, stories with a particular intent with a "retelling of historical events of the past that are intended to have meaning and direction for a given people in the present."

As mentioned above, narratives tells about things of the past. One can divide narratives into three parts:
  1. Character: protagonist (primary character), antagonist (conflict bringer), agonist (major character who gets involved in the struggle)
  2. Plot
  3. Plot Resolution

Now moving on to explaining plots, lets gain some perspective in understanding the basic plot of the biblical story.
  1. God created people in his own image and thus they became his image bearers who were given stewardship of the earth which was created for their pleasure.
  2. Enter the enemy, and what he did was made humans conform to his 'image' instead and thus made humans to become God's enemy.
  3. Following this is the long story of redemption of how God rescues his people from the enemies clutches and restores them back to his image and then finally restores them to the new heavens and new earth.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Reading transitions

I only started reading (books that did not have pictures in them), really reading when i hit 20 and that was after my conversion (they call it) to Christianity (being a follower of Jesus). But i started reading stuff by Benny Hinn, Kenneth Hagin, Roberts Liardon to name a few. I was into all things charismatic. But when i entered bible school, the books there were not unlike any kind of books you could find in bookstores (at least where im from). My lecturers made us read systematic theology and books on OT and NT survey. Being new and just started to reading the space of 4 years, it looked an impossible feat especially with my steady diet of charismatic bent books. But it was really amazing that there was a transition from reading a somewhat dented diet of rash theology to stuff that were of substantial substance. But then it took a while for me to get my hands on stuff by N. T. Wright, Vanhoozer, Richard Hays, Miroslav Volf, Scot McKnight to name a few. Forking out money for these books was the hard part but it was something that was needed (especially in the world of theological studies). But reading theological books take a lot of work (especially for this reader), i'm still trying my best to read through Vanhoozers book (that is sort of the curse if you start reading too late!). I'm wondering if there are people out there who went through some sort of reading transition in their life as well.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A joyful crucible

Each day begins as a reflection for a disciple, a constant internal wrestling of the will, a reflection of whether following Jesus means a joyful escapade of exiting adventures and lasting fulfillment or a pathway that leads to a crucible path into the scorns of afflictions.

Some say following Jesus changed their lives for the better. Some testify that having Jesus in their life has given then peace in a world raging in havoc. Some say that when they have Jesus, they are blessed materially and that life seems like a steady flow of outpouring blessing that depicts a stream flowing and steering them to paths always filled with green pastures. A life that's void of hardship and pain. After all Christ died instead of them for sins that were supposed to condemn them to the gallows of death. But now, it's all a steady flow of blessing because God ultimately sees us in Jesus.

But is this what following Jesus entails? Does this reflect a theology that is close to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus? I think too much of our teachings stem for the spring of what i mentioned above. Most of our daily inspiration and preconceived ideas are directed to a meaning or passage of blessing that entails bliss forevermore. And because of that we crucify to death the meaning of following Jesus.

I think in my own reflection, in the walk of following Jesus, the best description i can use to describe how it feels on an experience basis is a joyful crucible. It is a parody really. The meshing of joy and pain married together that we do not have enough words to convey meaning to this experience. There is really true joy and peace that one experiences when one meets Jesus and seeks to walk faithfully with him. But another side of the coin is the constant tug of pain that a complicated spheres of life can dent the best disciple to probing questions filled with angst on how to develop a hopeful trust.

That is why the only 'logical' side of understanding life is the obedient outflow of meaningless obedience that would eventually be revealed and vindicated in Jesus in the Resurrection of our bodies. As the experience of getting the tattoo above would depict it is a joyful crucible indeed.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

OT: Reading with the modern mind or some other way?

I'm doing a course on Old Testament survey and we were in a discussion on whether it was possible, using our modern minds to exegete the text scientifically, that is reading the text with modern bearings, that the Israelites were able to cross the Red Sea (i'll not get into details about the Reed sea debate)?

Some scholars contend that the number of Israelites, if there were millions of them, it would be impossible for them to cross the Red sea in the space of hours but it might take a week for them to do so. (Sorry I haven't got the time to cite the references of where i got these facts. I'll probably do explanation when i have free time to spare)

But let me just pose a few questions on this. Should we use modern ways to read some portions or the whole of the Old Testament? Modern as in reading them in the way we read historical books now, where facts are studied and chosen and weighed to determine whether they are real or not.

For the moment though, I lean towards trying to understand the OT in the manner how someone in that particular era understood things. Take for example missionaries who come from developed countries and they work among tribal groups who live in the jungle. If the wanted to communicate Christianity with these people, do you think it necessary for them go tell these people about the original Greek language of a certain word, or talk to these people about science and religion? I think these people would be scratching their heads and wondering what on earth these missionaries are talking about.

I think it is more rewarding to read an ancient text, not to look too much into how they relate scientifically (although in some cases this is needed), or factually (in the manner of archaeological discoveries). Another way to appreciate the ancient text is also to read them in a way that we try to dig out their theological bearings or meanings. The bible is first and foremost, after all, a book telling us about God and his story.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Scot Mcknight Interview Part 1 & 2

Another side pluralism in Malaysia

A blog post that talks about the religious situation in Malaysia. Interesting things to reflect and think about. Follow this link.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Jesus' Return & Hell

Two blog posts that i found helpful, both written by Klyne Snodgrass on Jesus' return and hell. Here are some exerpts that should whet your appetite. 

"...I like N. T. Wright’s recent book Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, And the Mission of the Church (HarperOne, 2008), but as with his earlier work Jesus and the Victory of God(Fortress, 1996), his view of Jesus’ eschatological teaching is unsatisfactory. In Surprised By Hope Wright states baldly that during his earthly ministry Jesus said nothing about his return. Did Wright confine himself to the Synoptics—if that were his intent—and ignore Johhn 14:3, 18, and 28?.... "

"...My concern is to stress that we know far less from Scripture about "hell" than most Christians think. If asked if I believe in hell, I often respond that I believe in gehenna. Most NT writers never mention "hell" or even have much on judgment by fire. All of us know what the English word "hell" means, but that meaning derives from medieval sources (and Greco-Roman ideas) more than Scripture..."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Leadership as Embodying

Some reflections amidst my exilic period...

I've been reading Christopher J. H. Wright's book "Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament" and it's contents has been cluttering in my mind for the last few weeks. Especially in the area of Jesus embodying God's vision for Israel. C. J. H. Wright is one of my favorite authors (along with another Wright, with the initials N. T.). Along with N. T. Wright, he also gives us a Jesus who embodied God's vision for Israel. As God's chosen messiah, Jesus did not just hold office, but became an encapsulated version of Israel, with the task of fulfilling God's call and will for the nation chosen by him. Jesus did not simply explained the kingdom in a sense but he went a step further, living what the kingdom of God required. In that way he became the obedient son whereas the called nation failed to do so. Because he was to embody Israel in being the obedient son, he also became their embodied sacrifice. 

I could go on and on with this but let me just stop at that point and divert our thoughts to leadership. Reflecting on this, leadership is in a way a call to embodiment. Embodiment in a sense that the leader becomes what God desires for the church. Leaders, have to encapsulate the vision of God for the community. It is only then that the church with the picture of God's vision incarnated in the life and thoughts of the leader able to grasp God's will and ways. 

This is not to mean that the leader becomes like Jesus, in a way that he is above reproach and everything he does is God's will. No, not at all. It is actually telling the leader the call upon his life and the kind of responsibility that is placed upon him; being obedient to God in serving the Church in mediating the vision. 

These are at best fragmented thoughts and not a full blown description of what I'm thinking. I would appreciate comments that would help harness where i might lack clarity or erred. But the idea that Leadership is embodiment still stands and i hope to build on this in the future.  

5 Views on the Historical Jesus

I was alerted by Nijay K Gustapa upon reading his blog on this upcoming book from IVP entitled "The Historical Jesus: 5 Views". The list of scholars include Robert Price, John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson, James D. G. Dunn and Darrell Bock. This book will definately make it's way to my book shelf when it come out! 

Friday, July 17, 2009

A quote from N. T. Wright

I heard Bishop N. T. Wright make this statement about doctrines

"Doctrines often function as portable stories..." 

Doctrines are important but they don't tell us the whole story. They function as portable stories which we unpack from our suitcase (some of these ideas are expressions of stuff Wright said) that tells fragments of the whole. In the way Scot McKnight would explain it 'wiki-stories'. They are condensed 'statements' that compliment the whole. 

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Reflections on being Exiled

The year has not ended but there is a resounding theme that keeps banging on the doors of my thoughts, mainly the turmoil of being to some extent exiled. I think it is a resounding theme that I keep on going through and one that I seek on reflecting on constantly in many days to come. But one thing is constant when all seems lost, the hopeful expectation of an exodus. 

I find that ministry and theological life in shifting Malaysia, with the parody of old school mentality combined with some western thought patters makes the journey a bumpy one at best. Some parts of Malaysia are clearly premodern in their thought patters and some parts are modern in their thought patterns. The irony is some theological students or fulltime workers do not understand these tensions. Many are still working out their sermons, teaching, ministry patterns on worn out methods (not that there is an ideal method) or doing things based on tradition (how things have always been done). Not many see the need of contextualizing their theological training or biblical preaching and teaching. 

Because of this ministry and theological way of communicating becomes static to those who have no background on these issues. Now is the minister is not sensitive to this, it does not matter how biblically based your teaching might be, you stand to lose a whole generation. 

I think this is the kind of thing that goes around the mind of someone in exile. A parody of anguish and hope. 

Friday, July 3, 2009

What do you think of expository preaching

I've been thinking about preaching for the past few days and especially in the best method used when preaching. I hear a lot of talk about the importance about expository preaching and i'm in agreement with all the emphasis on it. The need for the bible to be expounded and the bible to be taught and preached in church is vital, mainly because we do find that most of the stuff taught are mainly one line verses from the bible or sometimes a passage is read but the sermon and points or the topic have nothing to do with the passage read. So to come up with the method of expository preaching is simply great because the message and points are derived from the exposition of the chosen text. 

But i do have some minor problems with just strictly sticking on with just expository sermons. One of the reasons being, some passages in the bible are not adequate enough to give meaning to a given topic. The method of expository preaching simply hits a brick wall because it simply has to derive it's points from the passage and when it deviates everything runs havoc. One has to dig in the bible and look for particular passages so that one can arrive at the juncture where a text would fit in adequately giving justice to the topic. 

Although I place the above as a minor issue, i'm not at all against expository preaching. For me, we have to use a variety of methods with the intention of presenting biblical preaching as well as a message that is both relevant and understandable. Sort of like messages that Jesus gave. I'm not sure if Jesus gave an expository message to his hearers but what we do find him telling stories and occasionally expounding what we call the OT now. And at times this makes me wonder what method did the apostles use when they preached to the congregation

So what about you? Do you have any thoughts on expository preaching? Or are there any other ways that a pastor or preacher(teacher) can use for the purpose of preaching? 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sometimes i think

Sometimes i think, do people really need a spiritual centre in their lives? Because it seems like the bulk of life where people intersect on what's important and real is not really having a spiritual centre. But then the time when one will seek some sort of spiritual centre are through present crisis, mishaps, near death experience or stuff close to the description called 'bad thing happening to people'. It seems to me that the somber reality of coming to grips with thinking about God and spirituality is when we are sucked dry and looking at reality with enlightened eyes. But when all is well we forget the important stuff, when we have everything we feel invincible, when we are rich beyond measure we feel powerful. But all of these are just vain projections of what we think we need. They muffle out an important dimension to our life. Well it's just something i thought about. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What works best for you?

If you are into blogging I'd like to know what works best for you, pre-written posts and scheduled posts or a daily post? You can read a better description on this matter here.

I have written and published some 200+ posts already but I have not tried doing pre-written and scheduled blog posts fully yet. I've done it a few times (by that mean a couple of times, say less then ten tries) but I haven't gotten the hang of it yet. I go through the writing process of blogging on a more daily approach at the moment. Something comes up in my mind and that somehow is constructed into a post. But for regularity sake, it would not be a good idea to stick to this routine to expand my blog in the long run. Especially when i'll be in seminary soon. So i'll see how blogging works out with studies. Here is to a new beginning!

Monday, June 15, 2009


Work, according to Ben Witherington on his latest blogpost here, has been largely neglected by theologians in terms of a biblical understanding or a christian approach to it. In the opening line of his post he states that "While you may be amazed at this, it is nonetheless true that when you survey the works of Biblical theology available to us, very seldom does the subject of a theology of work come up."

The common thread of thought that I often hear from Christians is that there is a sense of what is considered work that God ordains and work that is of a secular nature. With this kind of thought infiltrating a lot of the thought patterns of Christians, regular jobs that people are involved in which takes in a large part of their time and life are viewed as unimportant. But of course not all Christians have this mentality but I fear a large majority subscribes to this view of work.

Anyway I hope the link to the post by Ben Witherington is helpful to give some explanation to this. This post is also a sample to a book that Witherington is planning to release on the subject of work. It should be one to look out for! 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Books for the Journey

I need some help in deciding this, so i would value your comments. I'm 95% certain that I'll be attending seminary to pursue my theological studies in the coming weeks. Why 95% you may ask? I still have to turn up for an interview with a seminary representative nextweek so I guess that accounts for the other 5% ammount of 'I might not make it'. But nontheless I'm positive I'll be accepted.

So here is my question. I am a book lover and to part with my books, that's like taking me off life support. Because I wont get the luxury of bringing my collection of books with me, I'm wondering what type of books would be helpful to add in my suitcase if I go? Knowing that you might not know what books I have on my shelf I'll ask the question in a general note, "If you wre packing to another place to study theology and have to decide on the right books for the journey what books would you pack with you based on your book collection?"

Not Even God...when Disappointed

I keep coming back to the chapter "Bonhoeffer on Disappointment" in a book edited by Brian Rosner entitled "Consolations of Theology". That particular chapter (the one i noted above) is the one that Rosner wrote and it was brilliantly done as he writes how Bonhoeffer dealt with disappointment. I'll probably do a post on that chapter as a whole somewhere in the distant or near future but I'd like to draw our attention on this particular passage from the book.

On a subheading that reads "Popular Strategies" on dealing with disappointment Rosner
mentions four ways in which people in general deal with it. The first being 'wallowing in regret' followed by 'seeking to curb desire', the third 'seeking a substitute' and the last being 'giving up hope for the thought of hope in the afterlife'. But as Rosner writes, Bonhoeffer never resorted to these popular ways in dealing with disappointment.

On the third popular startegies on dealing with disappointment, as i mentioned above, Bonhoeffer did not cave in and followed the popular way on dealing with disappointment, in that he did not seek a substitute to find momentary happiness as a consolation for unattained or unfulfilled desire or longings. Rosner writes "Seeking compensation elsewhere when our desires are frustrated also seems logical enough."(116) I find this true of how we ussually deal with disappointment, we might have a compulsion to buy things, fill ourselves with activities that are filled with 'fun', in a temporary way to combat a wounded heart. Read the following exerp from Rosner here which blew me away on what Bonhoeffer thought about this:

"With respect to seperation from love ones, aware of the pain that he may be prolonging, Bonhoeffer nontheless avers: "Some people...find compensation in short-lived pleasures that offer redier satisfactions...When we are forcibly seperated for any considarable length of time from those we love, we simply cannot, as most can, get some cheap substitute through other people- I don't mean because of moral considerations...we have to suffer unspeakably from the seperation, and feel the longing till it almost makes us ill. That is the only which we can preserve unimpaired our relationship with our loved ones." He insists that "nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love." Not even God: "It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; he doesn't fill it, but on the contrary, he keeps it empty and so help us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even in the cost of pain."" (116)

I wrote this in the margins of my book after reading this passage, a spur in the moment kind of thing: This third point embraces pain (longing) to the fullest/ at it's fullest level. There is absolutely no compensation for our the end they (our longings) become a drive in us (in a way that it pushes us).

What do you think of the exerpt above from the book? Or particularly the statement that said "It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; he doesn't fill it, but on the contrary, he keeps it empty and so help us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even in the cost of pain."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Thoughts on Keller

There's an article on Tim Keller and how he started in NYC. Quite an interesting read and because of that it made me think as well as gave a spark of excitement and enthusiasm inside me. An enthusiasm for ministry as well as the vigorous task of plunging into scholarship and the real world. I really respect this pastor, although i'm not so much a fan of the circle he hangs out with (Reformed) but I find Keller to be an ideal representation of what Reformed should be. Well it's just my opinion that is. Oh and he like's Wright's "Resurrection of the Son of God" (that's just an added bonus to why i like this guy, well this may this had something to do with it.) . Let me just direct your attention to two quotes i took from the artile that made me think (quotes are in italics):

Tim found Manhattan non-Christians amazingly, sometimes naïvely, curious. Though the borough's 1.6 million people were used to religious diversity, many had never talked to an evangelical. Tim's interest in art and music was an indispensable gift in communicating. His omnivorous reading also helped. New York is a city of high achievers to whom, Keller says, it made sense that a minister should be a scholar of ancient texts, exposing them to ideas and information beyond their experience. They needed someone who spoke their language, though, and Keller was a quick learner. "I saw New York mentor Tim," Sherman says. "There's something about the density of the city, the way your lives get intertwined with a secular culture."

One of the things that caught my attention here is the zeal to learn as well as being open to stuff people in general are exposed to (music, arts, etc). Pastors in the context that i live in are especially weak in these area. Again let me say that this observation does not apply to all Malaysia but the small place where i call home. So I hope that might avert some offense on my part, hopefully. Pastors here are respected to some degree (in spiritual matters) but that is about it. And pastors are those people who 'abstain' from the secular world. An example of this is those in ministry are 'forbidden' to hear any form of secular music, only the praise and worship kind are acceptable. There were times when books, the Harry Potter series or Twilight series, were publicly denounced by the church and calling for parent not to allow their children read them. There are far worse case scenarios where pastors or those in ministry were only supposed to wear slacks only and no jeans! I'm not sure if this is still ongoing but I think it still applies in some places.

Because of constrains like this pastors are hedged from knowing how to approach the 'secular' world or better how to engage in the world. And with that also the way a pastor might communicate to people might have a negative effect as well. Negative in a sense that people engaged in the world cannot understand terms used by pastors, hence there is a sort of communication breakdown. Because of communication breakdown, teachings and preachings are a dread to people in the pews.

So, what can pastors do to maintain proper communication that connect speak to people? Simply get immersed in culture, get to know what people are into, what people like for that matter. Now I'm not advocating that pastors go watch porn because people are into that. Clearly that is not what i mean! My advice to pastors is don't be too paranoid of things in the world-music, literature, art and other stuff. Learn to be curious and most of all be a learner. If you want people to know anything about the bible, why not you take time to learn the stuff that interest them?

Take Mark Robers who did a post on the Twilight novels that his daughter reads. Take some advice from him. Read it here.

Sherman relates Keller's vision to the apostle Paul. "Paul had this sense of, I really should go talk to Caesar. He's not above caring for Onesimus the slave, but somebody should go to talk to Caesar. When you go to New York, that's what you're doing. Somebody should talk to the editorial committee of The New York Times; somebody should talk to Barnard, to Columbia. Somebody should talk to Wall Street."

Reading this gave some boost of confidence which at times is sadly not evident to pastors or fulltime workers. A lot of pastors tend to be wimpy probably because they are not well versed in things their secular church members who have degrees to prove their credentials. This might be one reason but I think there are other reasons as well. But reading Keller and what he says about apostle Paul really pumped me up. That's the kind of confidance i want to have if i were a pastor or want other pastors here to have.

I have to say that as a student of theology, immersed in my culture, i find the state of embracing ministry fulltime to have a bad effect on my confidance. I see things have to change here and the mentality for that matter simply has to change. Well these are simply some thought that came to me when i read the artile. It lighted up my soul. So my mind is still fresh with it!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Deciding at the crossroads

Life would turn to some new transition soon in the coming weeks or months it seems and it feels like many things are still left unanswered at the moment. It makes me want to scream with motions of pulling my hair out of my scalp if i could or would. But I'd pass up the opportunity of the hair pulling for now. I still love my hair so I'd leave that to my imagination instead. Right now I need to make some decisions and with any step I would choose to take there would be some kind of sacrifice and losing to be experienced.

At the juncture of uncertainty, how does one know God's will in terms of making decisions? What is God's will and how do we know which is God's will. Some say that we wait and pray and if we have peace on the matter of choosing a path that would be validated as God's will. There might be some truth in this. But others advise to just do something and God will guide. Like something I read from Erwin McManus. There is truth in this way as well.

But i would like to know how do you make decisions and know that if it is God's will for you?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The God I Don't Understand- Chapter 1

Let's begin Chapter 1: The Mystery of Evil of Christopher Wright's book with some thoughts and reflection.

If you're into comics and superheroes, maybe some would agree with me that the first series of Batman movies (those that stared Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney) has to be said as a bad adaptation of a superhero character to the big screen. But come 'Batman Begins', I was totally blown away by the storyline. I especially like how Bruce Wayne evolved into the mysterious Batman. It was one of the ultimate origins story of a superhero adapted to the big screen and with that minimizes the mysterious character that superheroes have.

But as for evil as explained by C.H.Wright in his book, it's origin is somewhat difficult to pin point. I've heard people use texts like Isaiah 14:4-21 and Ezekiel 28:1-17 as reference points to how evil or rather Lucifer's fall from grace came about. On these two texts C.H.Wright says that "they were written originally to describe the defeat and death of historical human kings, and so it is a dubious exercise to build detailed doctrinal statements about the devil or the "underworld" upon them." (40) But although that may be the recurring fact about the two bible passages "they have a spiritual counterpart that is recognizably satanic." (40) For a more clearer description of Satan and his demons read Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4 and Revelation 12:7-9.

So, what are we to make of trying to understand evil and let alone it's origin to get a better understanding on things? For C.H.Wright, "evil does not make sense. "Sense" is a part of our rationality that in itself is part of God's creation and God's image in us. So evil can have no sense, since sense itself is a good thing." (42) Evil is not something that has any part of anything God created so therefore evil is "an intruder, an alien presence that has made itself almost (but not finally) inextricably "at home"." (42) Because Evil is foreign it makes no sense and should stay at the point of making no sense.

I must admit that I am frustrated with not being able to understand evil and it's origin and especially when C.H.Wright tell us to park at the space where we simply embrace the fact that evil should not be understood and that it simply makes no sense. But I do see the wisdom in taking this slant to making amends to our brains that always seeks understanding.

C.H.Wright goes on to say that "...God...has chosen not to explain the orgin of evil, but rather wants to concentrate my attention on what he has done to defeat and destroy it." (43) But this does not negate our desperate emotions to ask deep and frustrating questions on the mystery of evil. We are all the more encouraged to do so.

Evil will always have the capacity to pry our emotions out in the open but we are to take comfort that we are not meant to understand it but to work with God in trusting what he did and what he is doing to defeat it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


English is a sometimes common language here in Malaysia. I say sometimes because although many Malaysians understand a substantial amount of the language, it has mutated as well. Some have called it 'Manglish'. That is a generalization in the sense of terms I might add because there are various categories of this so called 'Manglish'. It is safe to say that we have borrowed the English language and made it our own. As in what the American Idol judges always applaud those contestants that make the song their own, we Malaysian have done so with language, making English our own, although I'm not sure anyone would rave about it. Anyways here is one version of the 'Manglish' I was talking about.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The God I Don't Understand-Introduction

I should state that I was drawn by the book because stuff happening in my personal life that makes me echo the title of the book "The God I Don't Understand". But i have to say that I have always been drawn to books that revolve around this type of subject matter, books like "Disappointment with God" come to mind by Yancey. These types of books explore these mysteries and questions that our heart longs in seeking answers to them. We all seek reasonable answers i might add. In bible school, i tried my take on the question but I was way off target, come to think of it. But this question keeps on nagging every time the belief in God is put up front. The question about evil and how God, if he is all good would allow suffering.

I thought I'd try something different with this particular book. After I've read a chapter, I'd blog about it. So some sort of experimentation going on here. I'd probably post something that really gripped me rather than do a blow by blow exposition on a chapter.

Christopher Wright who wrote the book wrote at the end of the introduction part of the book about what he biblical precedent he hopes to archive for this book, and he uses Psalms 73 to explain this. The psalm starts on a positive manner affirming Israel's faith in God (v.1) but moves on to the author's struggle with God's ways of handling things (v.2-14).

In the middle part of the psalm Wright explains that the author does two things. First, he explains that the psalmists although raises perplexing questions he does not go overboard for fear of "betraying God's people" (22). The second, as Wright explains again, the author of the psalm "goes to worship in the house of God with God's people. There, in the context of worship, his perspective is changed and he sees things in the light of God's ultimate will and moral government." Wright further states again that the psalmist "lets us hear both his struggling lack of understanding and his restored, worshiping faith." (23)

The part that caught my attention was when Wright mentions in the middle part of the psalm, namely the first half that is verse 15. This part raises wisdom in how we are supposed to carry out our hard fought questions especially on a public platform; books, blogs, sermons, teaching. Write states that

"There is a proper pastoral limit to the voicing of protest- as God reminded Jeremiah on one occasion (Jer 15:19) and as Isaiah warned his listeners (Isa 45:9-13). I have prayed constantly in working on this book that i may not transgress that limit. I want to explore questions that the bible itself wrestles with, but i want to build up God's people, not betray their faith." (22) (emphasis mine)

I think this does serve as a reminder for us especially in the blogspehere when we are relaying views, not necessarily on evil, suffering and God but on any other subject matter for that sake. But at points though, when i think of the psalms, there are some that push the limit, like the one where the psalmist wants God to dash the heads babies of the Babylonians. But it does make me ask what is a pastoral limit to voicing protest? Protest in a sense that asks God some deep questions on why he is not acting up to who we believe and learn that he is.

Reading through the times

I went out and bought myself Christopher Wright's new book "The God I Don't Understand" and after reading the introduction and the first chapter of the book, i can safely say that it will be a pleasant read indeed. So I'll be planning a review of the book as soon as I'm done with it. I'm also reading Carl McColman's book entitled "Spirituality: A Postmodern and Interfaith Approach to Cultivating a Relationship with God" and will also come up with a review of the book thanks courtesy of TheOoze Viral Bloggers. Based on what i read, it's a good book as well. I'm still waiting for another book to come.

Trying as much to read as well as reflect on what I'm reading but it's hard when you have other things happening that kind of push you to the edge sometimes. So I hope that would not effect good thoughts and reflections as well as reviews of books that I'm reading. I'm sure i don't wan' to mess those up.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chunk of (Senti-)Metal (value)

My girlfriend asked me some few years back, "Is that your briefcase?" To which I replied, "No, that's my laptop!"

I remember my days in bible college and you know when, as a student, we all in some ways struggle with the issue of money. I was in my second year and in need of a computer, and i was desperate. I asked some people in the church whether they could help me to purchase a computer but somehow my plea came unheard. I don't blame them though. But low and behold my bible school principle met up with some former students from the college who were looking to unload their old computers, two laptops to be precise were on the 'for sale' label. I was clearly exited to hear about the news because it was something that I have been praying and waiting for. It was a godsend actually. So I went and got to see the laptops that were being displayed and after a quick look, and check through I decided that this was the laptop for me.

It cost me RM600.00 bucks from money me and my girlfriend collected together. It served me well for 2 and a half years (I think) and finally died out with all my documents and papers that I wrote (typed in this case) lost forever in the now prehistoric hard drive. So here are some cool pictures of the chunk of metal that helped me through college.
I have no idea what model this thing was but it sure ain't a briefcase. Both of us had a good laugh after that.

S. F. R. J. (Thoughts & Reflections) Chp 1: Joining Mary at the Feet of Jesus

Just so you know, the initials S.F.R.J stands for 'Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus'. So the time you see these initials you will know that these particular posts are ongoing discussions, reflections and thoughts on that particular book.

This chapter sets the frame on two Jewish understandings on the use of these sentences ‘sitting at his feet’ as well as ‘anointing’ (in this case Mary anointing Jesus). Using these two examples, the authors are communicating to us the importance of studying Jesus in his Jewish context. It is interesting for them to use Mary to open up the pathway of following this rabbi named Jesus and subsequently framing the depiction of discipleship to Jesus the Messiah in the two sentences I mentioned above.

Take ‘sitting at his feet’ for example:

“If we were first-century visitors, we would have recognized the significance of something else in that story. It was customary for rabbis to sit on low pillows or chairs while they were teaching. Their disciples would sit on the ground or on mats around them. That’s how the phrase “sit at his feet” became and idiom of for learning from a rabbi…So when Mary was described as “sitting at Jesus’ feet”, she was being described as a disciple.” (14)

Without the Jewish understanding of this particular sentence 'sit at his feet' we miss something profound and essential. A simple understanding would just depict Mary as an avid listener or willing to hear Jesus teach. These understandings might be right but coupled with Jewish eyes, the words that were once simplistic and had some sort of mundane imagery turns into a rather enlightened portrayal; discipleship. well as ‘anointing’:
“By anointing him (Jesus) with expensive fragrances, Mary may well have been making a statement about who she believed Jesus was, proclaiming him as Messiah.” (16)

Anointing was clearly framed to Jews on occasions where kings and priest were put into office. It is interesting to observe that the authors link Jesus’ riding the donkey and his anointing in parallel with Solomon’s episode in 1 Kings 1:38-40. It is explained that the fragrance of Jesus being anointed by Mary would have lasted for days and that his fragrance was surely evident wherever he went. Jesus smelled like royalty. (18)

These depictions are fascinating because without cultural background of first-century Judaism, these insights would never have popped up to the imagination. Something that the authors were able to convince us at the beginning of the chapter is that there is a growing need of reading and understanding scripture in the light of its first-century background. Thinking through this chapter arouses my curiosity back again to the gospels and the deconstruction of what we have always thought certain passages meant.

There is a list of the online conversation discussing the book. Click here to see the other blogs that are discussing about the book!

Friday, May 15, 2009

World Class Apologists

Kevin Vanhoozer Interview

From the title I think you must have wondered that I interviewed Kevin Vanhoozer. But truth be told, I got this from another blog. Click here to follow the link. Vanhoozer is one of my favorite theologians although i'm still working out on understanding some of the things he is saying. So a tad of appreciation and frustration all jumbled up into one here. If you know some of his writings could you please guide me through some of his books. I started reading "Is there a meaning in this text" a few months back but it's definitely a hard read. I probably need some foundational knowledge to get thorough it for this time being, so if you can help me do tell me something about the book to add enthusiasm to my reading. And according to the interview that particular book, Zondervan will release a 10th anniversary addition with a new introduction by Craig Bloomberg and a 3500-word preface by Professor Vanhoozer! So if you haven't bought the book yet wait for that one to be released. Coming next year as well, two new books by Vanhoozer will be released! Details again from the interview. So a lot to look forward to!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Wright on his 'justification' book

Gotta love this.

Denominational Red Tapes

I have a habit of staying awake and depriving myself of sleep. It is clearly something bad but you have to blame modernity for creating things such as light bulbs that extend the role of the sun, mimicking daylight. I blame it also on reading. Sometimes i read too much. Well enough about that. As i was browsing the net and checking on blog updates, I wasn't disappointed in my findings. It got me thinking about denominations and procedures that denominations create in the matter of ordaining ministers.

Read this blog post by Adam Walker on the frustrations of his ordination process. According to the denomination that Adam is applying for his M.Div. from Princeton is not enough and he needs to do a whole years worth of courses to meet the standard requirement for him to get ordained. But to get a clearer picture of the situation, I encourage you to read the post and get a feel of what is happening.

Tony Jones, someone who is known for controversy (Emergent), has issued a petition of ordination for Adam on his blog regarding the whole fiasco. Tony is obviously pissed on what is happening as he states here, "Few things piss me off as much as the sinful bureaucratic systems of denominational Christianity. When rules and regulations trump common sense, then the shark has officially been jumped."

Reading these two blog posts, it does make me wonder whether denominations are actually hindering gifted and called people with the intention to serve the body of Christ their rightful place to minister. Sometimes it does seem like procedures can be a hindrance if there are too many red tapes to follow through to actually ordain someone. But with that on the side, I do understand that there is wisdom to have some sort of guideline or procedure to see if someone is fit for ordination.

I've had my fair share of 'denominational red tape' awhile back and I do have some '2 cent' (trying my best to sound 'humble') experience on this issue at hand. So what do you think, are there pro and cons of denominational procedures such as that is stated in the two blog posts that i linked above?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dogs, Simplicity and feeling extraordinary

"A dog has no use for fancy cars, or big homes or designer clothes. A water logged stick would do just fine. A dog didn't care if you're rich or poor or clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and it will give you his...

...How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special. How many people can make you feel extraordinary?"

The quote above is taken from the movie "Marley and Me". I hope i got it word for word though. Anyway, the quote above comes at the end of the movie which has a lot of meaning to it. Sometimes we think the best things in life that are worth all of our pursuits are success, riches and a having leverage because we have this great status. There are many other things as well but unlike a dog, it just values simplicity. It values love and attention and some crazy fun with its master of course. So the saying is true, "Give him your heart and it will give you his... ".

What grips me about the quote is when it comes to the last set of sentences. How many people would be capable to give their heart (selfless friendship)? How many are at least willing? How many would be so reckless to do so? "How many people can make you feel extraordinary?"

Hopeful Theo

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I'm a student of Theology (currently and will always be one). I'm a student of culture and a student of music as well. I guess you could say life is a never ending journey of learning. Because of that we never stop being students. Just a little something about this blog: Deconstructing The Monkey is all about being a safe space for emerging conversations